In early recovery it is important to be mindful of people, places, and things that we relate to drinking.
Walking into to a bar to ‘hang out with friends’ can be a set up for disaster. Visiting friends with whom you used to share a few cocktails may not be a great idea either.
My sobriety date is in September. That first Halloween was difficult. The tradition in my neighborhood is to have treats for the children and a ‘treat’ for the parents. As I made my rounds in the past, I would stop and chat with a neighbor over a glass of wine. The next neighbor would have blended drinks mixed up, and so on throughout the neighborhood. Halloween was a great big party for the adults.
Halloween was one of the “things” I related to drinking. I have children, so I could not simply stay away from Halloween. “Sorry kids, mommy just can’t handle Halloween this year,” would not have gone over too well, nor would it have been fair to them. I had to figure out a way to walk them through the neighborhood and decline alcohol.
Here are some tactics we can use to decline a drink without telling someone your whole life story or disclosing that you are in recovery:
- Tell them that you have developed an allergy to alcohol.
- Say that you are on medication and cannot mix it with alcohol.
- You can tell them that you have already had enough to drink (isn’t this true that we have had quite enough by the time we are in recovery?)
- Simply say “no, thank you.” We do not always have to give a reason why we do not want a drink.
- You can say that you quit drinking.
In certain situations, we may feel awkward without a drink in our hand when everyone around us is drinking. If you have a wedding or a celebration to attend, it may be helpful to have a tonic and lime, or some kind of non-alcoholic beverage that you can hold in your hand and sip. This has worked for many people in recovery. No one has to even know what you are drinking, and this tactic may aid in feeling more comfortable about not being able to drink anymore.
My world was all about drinking, so drinkers were my main group of friends. When I stopped drinking, I slowly came to realize that not everyone drinks. When I visited family in Italy in my drinking days, I thought everyone drank. With every meal there was wine. At the pizzerias we drank beer. There were nightcaps at night, and every café offered liquor that could be added into your espresso or cappuccino. I went back to Italy a few years ago, and to be honest, I was a little bit nervous, even with years of sobriety under my belt. I hadn’t seen my cousins in years, and last time I did, we drank together. I was not quite sure how I would handle the situation.
With sober eyes and a clear mind, one of the first things that I realized when I was in Italy is that not everyone drinks as much as I thought they did.
As a matter of fact, they hardly drink at all! I was the one who was the big drinker, and my cousins didn’t question me when I simply told them that I do not drink anymore. I think they were glad.
There is no magic answer in how to handle situations where there will be alcohol. Honesty with yourself is the best solution. If you feel wary about going someplace where there will be alcohol, listen to your intuition and do not go. We do not have to do anything that we do not feel comfortable doing. If you would feel worse not going (for example, if the event involves a sibling or your child), take someone in recovery with you. Looking back at my first sober Halloween, I am sure that if I had asked a family member or a friend to take my children out trick-or-treating, they would have. I did not have to put myself through that agony.
Remember, it does get easier with time. Those first few years I thought that the entire world drank. I had no idea how I would get through my life without drinking.
The thought of people drinking right in front of me made my stomach flop. Those days seem like a lifetime away now. All great changes happen one minute, one hour, one day at time.